Betts Not Forgotten

He was leveled on the run by the blitzing safety and Earnest Byner wanted to see how he responded. Ladell Betts started toward Matt Bowen, but didn't lose his poise. Two plays later, Ladell Betts broke off a strong gain, and earned more respect from Byner.

''That's the type of thing you see,'' Byner said. ''Mental toughness.''

And that's why Byner hasn't counted out Betts as a big contributor this season. Even if the Redskins have Clinton Portis. Byner even said Betts is as gifted as any player the Redskins have.

But injuries have slowed Betts' career. The former second-round pick could have taken the job away from Trung Canidate, but couldn't stay healthy. He missed seven games because of injuries, and precious time in training camp. His stats reflected the absence, and lack of consistency, as he rushed for only 255 yards on 77 carries.

''Last year was the hardest I've ever been through,'' Betts said. ''I never had to sit out for any length of time. I'd never been hurt. So I looked this offseason to strengthen up my body and prevent those kinds of things.''

Now he's stuck behind Portis, who can do a little of everything. That lessens the opportunities for Betts.

''I know they brought Clinton in here for a reason,'' Betts said. ''But I'm approaching it like I'm supposed to be the starter. I look at it as an opportunity to challenge. You don't get many chances to go up against the best in the business. You get a chance to see how you measure up.''

And if he doesn't play much?

''I won't let it get me down,'' he said. ''It's all about being mature and knowing your role. We get paid to do a job and they pay us well. I won't complain.''


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